Disciplined and Equipped

Hello Ladies! It’s been awhile since we talked about IDEALS, so let’s do it!

In the last post, we considered what it means to be Immersed in the Word—to live a life in which the truths of Scripture determine how we think and act because we are hiding the Word in our hearts (Ps. 119:11) and meditating on it continually (Ps. 119:97).

At our March ladies gathering, we looked at why it’s important to cultivate a supreme view of the Word—and the God of the Word—and how we can put that conviction into practice. (The handout from the gathering is attached here, in case you missed that time of sweet fellowship.)

Today, let’s look at the “D” and the “E” of the IDEAL Christian life: Disciplined in Our Walk and Equipped for Every Good Work. These two principles go together like peas and carrots.

If the term “discipline” makes you scrunch up your nose in an eat-all-your-veggies sort of way, taste and see that discipline is a good thing! Biblical discipline is not harsh or rules-driven, as some might think. Rather, it is training in godliness.

In the first of two inspired letters that the Apostle Paul wrote to his protégé in the faith, Paul warns him in 1 Timothy 4:7-8 to avoid false teaching (error) and to instead “discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily training is just slightly beneficial, but godliness is beneficial for all things.”

In the nearest context, Paul is addressing Timothy, a young preacher; but in the broader context, this call to godliness is extended to believers of all ages, vocations, and eras.

Godliness can be defined as reverence or respect toward God—possessing a high view of God.  The godly person adores God and has a practical awareness of God in every area of life. A godly person puts God in His proper place. The undisciplined person puts something else in God’s place. This is referred to as idolatry. [1]

A disciplined walk generates and sustains a right view of God (godliness) that permeates the very fiber of the believer’s being—mind, heart, attitudes, and behaviors. Now that we have considered what godliness is and recognize that it stems from a disciplined life, let’s contemplate the meaning and composition of spiritual discipline.

In his excellent book, Disciplines for the Christian Life, Donald S. Whitney defines spiritual disciplines as “those practices found in Scripture that promote spiritual growth among believers in the gospel of Jesus Christ.”[2]

To be disciplined in our Christian walk, then, means to obey Scripture as a routine way of life and as a natural response to our saving faith. It involves doing those activities that Scripture commands us to do, such as reading and meditating on the Word, praying, worshipping, and serving. A disciplined walk results in knowing and experiencing God and growing in Christlikeness—it results in godliness.

Godliness is beneficial for all things, Paul says to Timothy. It influences how we view the world and our circumstances. It determines how we use our time (Eph. 5:15-16). It shapes our understanding of God, and it impacts our earthly relationships as we consider them from the perspective of eternity. It affects how we carry out the Lord’s work. It authenticates our Christian witness. In short, it makes us more like Christ, and it is profitable for this life and the next.

In her equally excellent book, Disciplines of a Godly Woman, Barbara Hughes gets to the heart of the matter by providing a definition that addresses some misconceptions. She distinguishes true spiritual discipline from letter-of-the-Law- legalism, the latter of which might give the outward appearance of a disciplined Christian walk but falls short of a heartfelt hunger to grow in godliness. Put succinctly, “legalism is self-centered; discipline is God-centered. [3].

Let’s chew on this a bit.

Legalism is the use of human effort to achieve or maintain a right standing before the Lord (Gal. 3:3). For the legalist, discipline has a self-centered goal in mind: to gain merit with God.

Legalism inevitably results in adding rules and commands where there are none and twisting the ones that actually are there in God’s Word. Legalism is rooted in pride and often consists of judging others for not living up to the man-made moral standards the legalist has determined meritorious.

Can you think of some examples of legalism disguised as spiritual self-discipline?

One need not look further than the Pharisees to find a few illustrations, but let’s get even more practical—and perhaps look a little closer to home. One example that comes to mind is the desire to read the Bible every day.

It is a good thing to read the Bible every day. A very good thing! However, if reading the Bible every day produces a sense of self-accomplishment—or perhaps feelings of drudgery—the point (and the Person) has been gravely missed. As well, if the intent of reading the Bible is to merely gain knowledge or to impress others, the point (and the Person) has been gravely missed. In these examples, the effort has moved from spiritual discipline to counterfeit godliness.

If the purpose of reading the Bible is a desire to gain the Lord’s approval, to feel accomplished, or to impress others, isn’t it likely that missing a day will result in guilt feelings, despair, a sense of failure, or fear that God is angry? Do you see, then, how such motivations and responses are self-centered, driven by emotions, and the opposite of spiritual self-discipline?

In terms of God’s approval of us, our right standing before Him is achieved only through Jesus Christ, who died for our sins, was raised from the dead for our justification, and even now intercedes for us at the throne of grace (Ro. 4:25; Heb. 7:25). Where our efforts have been tainted in full or in part by any variety of legalism, let us repent, trusting that “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

Since Jesus’ work on the cross covers our sins past, present and future, and the Father can never love us any more or less than He does now, we are unencumbered to pursue godliness.

In Colossians 1:10, the Apostle Paul instructs the believer to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”

Paul is effectively saying that good works flow out of godly living. A truly godly person can’t help but do good works! In other words, a disciplined walk produces genuine godliness, which is pleasing to the Lord, and equips us for every good work. See? Peas and carrots!

A disciplined walk is not a short jaunt down a well-manicured path—it is a lifelong pilgrimage of faith through hills and valleys, around twists and turns. It’s an invigorating journey, because the Lord is with us and is making us more and more like Him. At the same time, the passage and the perils along the way often push us to near exhaustion. Nevertheless, we must press on and do the hard walking! Ladies of Grace, “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Phil. 2:12b-13)

There is so much more that could be said! Fortunately, we are being offered a couple of ways to grow in our reverence of God and to consider more deeply the spiritual disciplines which will better equip us to bear fruit in every good work.

The Elders at Grace Hill are offering two Equip classes on Wednesday evenings this summer, beginning May 5th at 6:30PM. The first 6-week class will provide a study of God’s incommunicable attributes—those characteristics that only He possesses.  The second 6-week Equip class will offer instruction on the spiritual disciplines of the Christian life. The timing of these classes could not be more ideal!

Until next time, keep pressing on in the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, encouraging one another to do likewise.

Bibliography:

[1] Virtue and Assurance, Part 1, Grace to You; August 19, 1990

[2] Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald S. Whitney; page 4

[3] Disciplines of a Godly Woman by Barbara Hughes; page 14

Male and Female He Created Them: God’s Good Gift of Gender

Where once revealing the gender of your baby was accompanied by a party and celebration, those parties are now labeled as transphobic and hateful. One of the first questions you might ask a pregnant woman is “do you know the gender of your baby?” and now a question like that is deemed offensive. The world in which we live is confused and fallen. We live in a world where all of mankind is lost and ruined by the fall. We live in a world where men and women have “exchanged the truth about God for a lie (Rom 1:25).” People with their hearts so hardened and minds so darkened that for some it has become difficult to answer one of the most rudimentary questions: am I a boy or a girl?

The CDC refers to the word “transgender” as “an umbrella term for persons whose gender identity or expression (masculine, feminine, other) is different from their sex (male, female) at birth.” I don’t want to take the time in this post to explore the absurdity of transgenderism. I affirm that distortion of gender is a sin and that the sinfulness of transgenderism, a continuum of genders, gender-neutrality, or genderfluidity are against God’s design. However, what I do want to explore is the positive side of the discussion and how God designed gender as a good gift.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. He also created mankind. Within mankind, God created two, and only two, genders. Genesis 1:27 states, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” These gender distinctions, which God had made, are not constructs of society nor are they simply labels we can choose according to how we feel. God created male and female, and gender is the sovereignly ordained difference between male and female. Any sort of attack on gender or its distinctions is ultimately an attack upon God.

Notice, later in Genesis, we read, “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good (Gen 1:31).” God called everything he created very good. God’s creation includes his gender distinctions. Gender and the difference between males and females are a good gift God gave to us. God created males and females for the good of humanity and human flourishing. We see that men and women have different roles in the home, church, and society. When we blur the lines of gender, we also blur the lines of God’s created structure for us as humanity.

Many view gender as limiting and restrictive. Yet, it is when we do not live within God’s designed gender for us, we become slaves to sin and live in bondage. Gender is not restrictive. Gender causes flourishing. Little boys are meant to grow up and be men. Little girls are meant to grow up and be women. Then as men and women, they live in the divinely appointed roles that God has given men and women. The church will flourish as men lead the church. The church will equip its women as older women teach younger women to love their husbands and children. The home will flourish as men lead their families as they love their wives as Christ loved the church. As we teach our children to live out in fullness God’s design. Society will flourish through common grace as men and women are fruitful and multiply (which biologically takes a man and woman to do!). It will be good for society as the public witness of the church stands firm upon the good gift of gender.

An unbiblical understanding of gender boils down to an authority issue. We do not get the option of defining reality. God defines reality. God designed the world we live in. Gender is God’s design, and because it is God’s design it is final and absolute. Anyone who seeks to mar that design is in sin and not submitting to God who is in all authority.

If you believe you were born the wrong gender, or believe gender roles and distinctions are archaic, my question to you this: “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’” God has made you what you are. He has made you either male or female. If you are male, embrace your masculinity. If you are female, embrace your femineity. Embrace the very roles God has given you and flourish. God has sovereignly made you male or female. Who are you to question what God has done? Instead of fighting it, try praising and thanking God for his gracious design.

For anyone who is struggling with gender, you might believe there is freedom in gender reassignment. Please do not believe the lie. Satan and his false teachers will promise you freedom, “but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. (2 Pet 2:19).” Attempting gender reassignment will not produce freedom but only more spiritual slavery and bondage.

Gender reassignment is not the answer. Jesus is your answer. You can pump yourself with all the hormones you would like, you can wear different clothes, and alter your physical appearance, but none of those will address your eternal problem. You hate God, and you hate His creation, and He stands in judgment over you. Escaping God’s appointed gender for you will never help you escape the wrath that is to come. Yet, there is a way of escape, and it is found in Christ. However, if you are to continue God will give you over to yourself in judgment. You, my friend, do not need a gender transformation you need a heart transformation. You can experience a new heart that now loves God when you receive the risen Christ. Christ has the transformative power to give you a new heart. Trust in him today.

Gender distinctions are good. Primarily because God has designed male and female. The church must be faithful to God’s divinely designed gender distinctions. God created male and female, it is very good, and it is for our good.

Immersed in the Word

Woman of Grace, Immerse Yourself in the Word!

Do you frequently wonder how to respond biblically to what’s happening in your life—whether it’s an unexpected occurrence, a crisis event, or part of your day-to-day routine? Do you find yourself asking, “What’s the ‘how-to’ for the situation I’m in?”

Do you know and trust that the Bible has the answers?

God’s Word is truth (John 17:17); and it equips us to handle every situation in a manner that glorifies Him. From Genesis to Revelation, we have the teaching, instruction, warnings, and encouragement we need to put off the old self and to put on godly thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors (2 Timothy 3:16-17; Ephesians 4:22-24). Just think: We have within our grasp the complete and sufficient words of God, written down for us and for all generations!

To faithfully apply the Word of God to our lives, we must know it. (You can’t apply what you don’t know!) In his New Testament commentary on Romans, John Macarthur states, “The transformed and renewed mind is the mind saturated with and controlled by the Word of God.” To put it in terms of the “I” in our IDEALS, we must immerse ourselves in the Word.

Being immersed in the Word means living with reliance upon it for wisdom, trusting that it provides both help and hope. Not only that, being immersed in the Word involves thinking on the precepts of the Bible moment by moment throughout the day, not just when we find ourselves in trouble, or sit down to read it, or gather with the local church body. Being immersed in the Word involves looking at every aspect of life through the lens of Scripture.

Psalm 119 beautifully portrays the need for the Word—and the God of the Word—in our everyday lives. For example, the psalmist says:

“I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” – Ps 119:11

“Your word, Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth, and it endures. Your laws endure to this day, for all things serve you.” – Ps. 119:89-91

“Oh, how I love your law. It is my meditation all the day.” – Ps. 119:97

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” – Ps. 119:105

“You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word.” – Ps. 119:114

“The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.” – Ps. 119:130

God’s Word is as essential (arguably, more essential) than the air we breathe or the food we eat. Jeremiah, who served as prophet and priest to the kingdom of Judah, regarded God’s word as daily bread for his soul in Jeremiah 15:16:

“Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts.”

By now, you may be thinking that a Word-consuming life requires work (and a stomach of iron). Yes, it does! Being immersed in the Word is a 24-7 commitment, but it’s not one we can do alone. The Holy Spirit residing in us brings the truths of Scripture to bear on our hearts and minds, and it is by His enabling power that we can apply these truths to our lives (Luke 24:45).

The Apostle Paul, who tirelessly proclaimed Christ alone for the forgiveness of sins, delivered this exhortation concerning the Christian walk in Philippians 2:12-16 (emphasis mine):

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.”

Whether you have twenty minutes or two hours to regularly read, study and memorize Scripture, I encourage you to redeem every moment the Lord has given you (2 Timothy 2:15; Ephesians 5:16). Over time, your knowledge of the Word will grow and grow. A fruit of that diligent work will be an increased ability to see circumstances and trials in your life through the lens of God’s Word and to respond according to His wisdom and instruction.

Pray that the Holy Spirit calls to mind what you are learning and helps you apply it to the situations in your life. Teach it to your children (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). Seek out like-minded ladies in order to encourage and sharpen one another in light of the Word (Proverbs 27:17).

In love and obedience to our great God, let us be known as women of the Word!

Helpful resources to aid in studying and applying the Word: